Health care could cost you

Yukon's health-care system "will soon be unaffordable." That bit of bad news was contained in a health-care survey distributed territory-wide this month, courtesy the Department of Health and Social Services.

Yukon’s health-care system “will soon be unaffordable.”

That bit of bad news was contained in a health-care survey distributed territory-wide this month, courtesy the Department of Health and Social Services.

“The Yukon government cannot continue to spend more on health care without either increasing revenues or reducing expenditures in other areas,” according to the survey.

It’s a threat—either Yukoners start paying for health care, or other government services will be cut, said Victoria Faulkner Women’s Centre program co-ordinator Julianna Scramstad.

The ultimatum was followed by 25 questions.

Should the government spend more on health care and leave less money for other services?

Should the government increase taxes to help pay for health care?

Or should individuals pay “an appropriate fee” for health care services?

“It’s unethical and irresponsible to treat such a serious issue this way,” said Whitehorse resident Beatrice Ainstey, commenting on the survey that showed up in her mailbox.

“It doesn’t give you enough time to think about it.”

The survey suggests reintroducing “health-care premiums to help pay the cost of health-care services in Yukon.”

“It’s really scary,” said Scramstad.

“Fees and co-payments will inevitably be punishing the most vulnerable, causing decreased access to people living in poverty.”

Seniors may also feel the pinch.

The survey proposes raising rates for people living in long-term care facilities, like Macaulay Lodge and Copper Ridge Place.

These rates have not changed in 15 years, and “have fallen far below other jurisdictions in Canada,” it says.

So, the survey asks if residents living in long-term care facilities should be charged rates comparable to those in the provinces?

The survey also asks if Yukoners support introducing a user fee for “nonemergency travel for medical treatment.”

“None of the provinces have this kind of program,” it says.

But the provinces don’t need this type of program, said Scramstad.

It’s different in the North, she said.

“We don’t have the same facilities.”

The survey compares us to the provinces, but “we’re not the provinces,” she said.

“And for some reason it doesn’t mention the other territories, which probably have similar programs to ours.”

“The questions were so weighted you couldn’t give any genuine answers,” said Ainstey.

“They obviously know what they want people to say—it’s sleazy.”

The survey also proposes taxing liquor more steeply, expanding immunization programs and placing a premium and a deductible on both the government’s pharmacare and extended health benefits programs.

It also notes “the cost mark-up paid by the Yukon government” for pharmaceutical drugs “is considerably higher than in the provinces, and the Yukon has no maximum mark-up dollar amount.”

So, should the government “look at ways to get its costs for drug programs closer to what is paid in the provinces?” asks the survey.

The survey doesn’t mention that the drug pricing is based on a 1995 government agreement with pharmacists that expired in 1997.

And it hasn’t been renewed.

“Under the terms of this agreement, the Yukon government is paying a higher mark-up rate on the cost of drugs than other jurisdictions,” says a Yukon government audit released last year.

The markup ” is one of the highest in the country,” according to the Yukon Health Care Review, released in September.

The survey’s questions are based on recommendations made in this 160-page review.

“But it was a private-sector framed review,” said Scramstad.

The review concludes: “Yukoners must increasingly take responsibility for their own personal well-being, and their utilization of health-care services, in order to reduce their collective burden on the health-care system.”

“But that collective burden is the cost of living together,” said Scramstad.

“Publicly funded health care is supposed to be there so people of every income level have access.

“That’s the whole point.”

Contact Genesee Keevil at

gkeevil@yukon-news.com